There are few people harder to trust than an addict. He will look you right in the eye and tell you he’s clean, tell you he has finally kicked it, is ready to do whatever he must to be able to stay with you and the kids. And then he will go off and score and stay out all night and not phone you till the next day or the day after, at which point he will beg your forgiveness because he has finally learned his lesson, really learned it this time, and this time he is ready to be clean. He has never felt this way before, he’ll say; he’s had a revelation, it’s different this time, can’t you see? And you will be unwilling to believe him, but also so desperate to believe him that without clear and constant support from your friends—who, not married to him, not raising children with him, can see his behavior for what it is—you would let him come back home.
But if you have lived with an addict, or with anyone who has betrayed you, and that person tries to regain your trust by consistently being trustworthy, then you may have to learn to trust him again. The fact that he has become trustworthy doesn’t make this any less difficult. Because by now you wonder whether you’ve lost all perspective; if you couldn’t trust the person you thought you knew best, how can you trust anything? How can you trust your own judgment? You grapple with that one for a while. You take a kind of inventory of the people you have trusted: who among them has been always reliable, whose dependability comes and goes, who you would leave your children with. You realize that most of the people you do trust actually are worthy; and that though you don’t trust the addict, you can trust your friends and yourself. Your trust is like a home. You can sit on the porch and watch the way someone outside behaves, and if you don’t like the behavior, you don’t have to let him in. You can watch him, you can sit there on the porch and tell him that you’re rooting for him and that you hope he gets better, and then you can go inside and close the door. If you’re having a good day, you can blow him kisses before you go in. But you don’t have to invite him in with you. Your home is secure because you have built clear boundaries around it. Some things are allowed, and others are not. It isn’t easy, but it’s simple.
Finally, one day you feel comfortable enough to invite him in. And this time, it really is different. You know—and he knows—that the reason you trust yourself enough to say “Come in” is that you also trust yourself enough to say “Get out.” Every day you take a leap of faith, choosing to trust him. Being betrayed has provided you with the opportunity to learn how to trust with your eyes open. You will be generous but not stupid.
And then months or years after making the same choice every day and seeing that he is constant in his behavior, you suddenly realize that you have forgotten to make the choice, that you have settled into a position of trust. It is not the blind trust you had before; it is wiser, and more adult. In that way, it is better.